Sandwich town officials have been working for years to address the problem. Cape Cod Times’ George Brennan reports that they may be getting closer:
At a meeting earlier this week, officials from across the Cape met with Cape Cod Commission staff to discuss the possibility of mining sand offshore to renourish sand-starved beaches.
Sand mining is allowed under the state’s Ocean Management Plan, but not for commercial purposes, commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki said. The commission is in the process of mapping areas where sand mining would be prohibited under the marine district of critical planning concern.
The Cape Cod Commission has released a preliminary map of areas that could be used for sand mining; critical habitat for endangered right whales would be off-limits. But there are other areas that could be considered, and the Commission expressed willingness to include sand mining areas in their ocean use planning.
The commission is open to the idea of pre-permitting so-called “borrow pits” to help Cape communities deal with ongoing erosion problems, Niedzwiecki said. It’s something that New Jersey already does and by providing these predetermined sites here, it would cut down on the expense of permitting, he said.
“We understand that this is a pressing need for many local communities,” Niedzwiecki said. The commission should have standards in place by the end of the summer, he said.
Of course, sand mining and beach nourishment aren’t cheap, and there’s the question of who would pay. The jetties were built by the Army Corps of Engineers.
If the Corps were to agree that its jetties are the source of the problem, it would be obligated to pay for the solution, [state Rep. Randy] Hunt said.
Even if Sandwich officials find the sand and the funding, they may face challenges to beach nourishment plans.
Not only will sand mining trigger Cape Cod Commission oversight, but it will also require Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review. Sandwich has opposition from the state’s Natural Heritage in the past because its main stretch of beach is the habitat for the endangered piping plover.
So, really, the situation at Town Neck Beach shines a light on the dark sides of both coastal armoring and beach nourishment.
But here’s my question: Why are they called “borrow pits”? Nobody’s planning to put the sand back.